Maybe it’s not huge news these days that there will be another march on Saturday, to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. There’s a great deal to march about, right now.
But this is a march that is different from many of the most recent, but in a cause that is all too familiar: the plague of gun violence that has ravaged our communities, but in particular the Black community.
Both in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, it’s already been a long hot summer. Months of heat — and killings, probably and unfortunately — lie ahead.
That is why community organizations will be marching with the Baton Rouge Police Department on Saturday morning. Their combined message is important and relevant in Louisiana cities, where the summer has been a violent time.
Gun violence often surges during the summer months when people are spending more time outside, temperatures are rising and children are on vacation from school. But that surge appears to have started earlier than usual because the pandemic has upended normal life.
The violent Fourth of July holiday in New Orleans was one example of the trend. Heartbreakingly, a shooting in the city's 7th Ward killed a nine-year-old boy and injured two teens.
For Baton Rouge police, there is the fear that the current rash of shootings will set records for 2020.
Homicides could be a record in 2020, worrying city and parish officials about the months to come, especially since the coronavirus pandemic and resulting financial crisis don't appear to be fading away.
BRPD Chief Murphy Paul said he believes the added stress and anxiety are fueling increased violence both in Baton Rouge and in other cities nationwide.
We would not want to bet against that hypothesis. The added financial and family strains of the pandemic clearly have an impact. While efforts have begun to ramp up counseling services with federal aid money, stress and anxiety are threats.
But as Chief Paul says, the culture of violence “has been in this community for far too long.”
That is why there is a need for a march, as organizations in the community want to spread the word about how to combat destructive behaviors, from robbery and other crimes, including domestic violence. With Paul, community organizations noted an increase in domestic calls as well.
Organizers of community groups appeared with Paul to also emphasize the need for support services to give people an alternative to violence, connecting them with educational and job opportunities, showing that a different outcome is possible and within reach.
These remain important components to a strategy against crime in every community, but in a relatively poor state as Louisiana is, economic and social strain is bound to hit harder during events like the coronavirus pandemic.
We applaud the marchers on Saturday and the day-in, day-out work of peace officers and community organizations. Violence is a plague, too, and it must be addressed.